The Participatory Culture of Prosuming
Computing has infiltrated the everyday life of people all over the world. It is no longer merely a tool for communication and interaction, but also something-to-think-with, a medium that can give us new dimensions in the way we experience and engage with the world.
The digital media theorist D. Fox Harrell describes how digital media, or phantasmal media, affects our way of thinking and acting. He defines three different ways of computing: social, cultural, and critical computing. Harrell defines the aims of critical computing as to:
... challenge and provoke users' idealized cognitive models through enabling active participation imbued with culture and critical awareness. (Harrell 2009, 4)
Critical computing evokes in the user new ways of thinking and interacting with a globalized world. The Global Lives Project is a compelling example of this usage of computing technology. The GLP archive, which contains visual documentation of the lives of different people from around the world on a digital platform on the Internet, enables users to actively engage with global cultures.
Users can watch many different stories of everyday life, and can collect and upload their own documentation of the everyday life experiences of people in their locale (1). Thereby, GLP participants can add to the creation of a new online collective memory, made with other people through the digital interaction of sharing and distributing information. As a critical computing project, the Global Lives Project hopes to bring a critical awareness of how culture is categorized and transformed by engaging users in a collaborative new media project.
In the field of new media, the concept of participation is a notion of process-oriented production that is constantly changing, interacting, and mutating. Technology has enabled new ways of accessing, manipulating, and remixing already-accumulated media into new forms of expression. In general, new media allows a continuous stream of virtual collaboration; users can build on the works of others to share, edit, and/or sample as both a mode of production and a way of perceiving and engaging in the world. One could say that the process of editing has become a form of art, a mode of interaction, and a way of experiencing the world. In the book Postproduction the art critic Nicolas Bourriaud describes this new cultural form:
It is no longer a matter of elaborating a form on the basis of a raw material but working with objects that are already in circulation on the cultural market, which is to say, objects already informed by other objects. (Bourriaud 2002, 22)
By searching, selecting, and swapping from one video documentary to another, as most of us do in digital archives, we can not only consume the GLP's stories of everyday life around...